Foundry-sponsored Singlespeed Cyclocross National Champion—and all around nice guy—Tim Allen gives us a glimpse of what a week during ’cross racing season looks like for him, and shares his intensely relaxed approach to winning.
Fun is a key ingredient to Tim Allen’s success on bikes. “I always loved riding as fast as I possibly can, and racing has always been a fun way to push my limits,” says the 28-year-old.
Although he surprised some people with his win in the 2014 National Championship Singlespeed Cyclocross race, the Western sales manager at Feedback Sports in Golden, Colorado, has been competing for 19 years. His career took shape in college when he joined the cycling team as a sport-level mountain bike racer. “By the time I graduated, I was racing mountain bikes professionally and traveling around the world to races,” he says.
Allen admits it was not always easy trying to balance school, social life, training, and racing. But, he says, “I never took racing so seriously that I would turn down a cold beer or a hot date! I think this dictated my racing career. Racing is my hobby, not my job, and I have worked hard to keep that perspective.”
Just because he’s so laid back about his racing doesn’t mean he doesn’t plan—or that you don’t need to keep a close eye on him on race day. It was no fluke that he became 2014’s National Champion in his first singlespeed ‘cross event. He knows what works for him, and how to show up to throw down.
It Starts Monday
Allen looks ahead and prepares during the week before an event, but he’s more like Rocky than the Russian in Rocky IV. “I commute on my Harrow most days, nine miles each way,” he explains. “I also like to ride my Broadaxe 29’er during my lunch hour. The weekends are for yard work, house projects, family time, and of course, racing. I spend a lot of my free time in our garden and in the garage tinkering with vintage motorcycles.”
Allen doesn’t have a coach or training program. He doesn’t do intervals. He doesn’t own a heart rate monitor or a power meter. “I do use Strava to have fun chasing Kings of the Mountains on the local trails,” he says.
The biggest thing he needs to feel prepared, though, is equipment. “The week before is all about the bike,” he says. “If my bike is dialed, my brain can relax. A week out, I know that the training is in the bank and the only thing that really stresses me out is bicycle maintenance. Clean, tune, and lube, and make sure that tires are glued on solidly. (I learned that the hard way at CX Nationals in Bend when I rolled two of them.) With weather, it is what it is. I try to be prepared for anything.”
When it comes to pre-race chatter amongst the competition or from the peanut gallery, he doesn’t really pay attention. “I sort of just do my thing."
Race Day, 7 am
On the day of the race, Allen has his gear, parts, people, and rituals all ready to go. “My Feedback work stand and my tool box travel with me to every race,” he says. “I like to do a bolt check—chainring bolts, cleats, cable pinch bolts, etc. I try to put a wrench on every bolt. This year I also plan on having a spare set of wheels in the pits along with my ‘B’ bike.”
This became part of the plan after aforementioned Elite CX Nationals. “I flatted on my front wheel during the third lap,” he says. I went into the pits and was handed my ‘B’ bike, which had been recently converted into a singlespeed. All was good, until I learned that there was not another spare front wheel with a 15mm thru-axle. I was forced to do the remaining two-thirds of the race on my single speed.”
Nutrition is also a key to success for Allen. He stresses the importance of breakfast and coffee. “I love local races where I can wake up in my own bed and cook up fresh eggs from my chickens,” Allen says. “If I’m on the road, I look for a local breakfast burrito joint to do the trick. There’s nothing more important than a freshly ground, light roast, aero pressed cup of coffee. Budan Coffee is my go-to.”
Timing is Allen’s most challenging task when it comes to eating. “Giving my body time to digest and having enough fuel to get me through an hour of intensity is difficult. I still find myself experimenting with timing of meals. A PB&J about two hours before the start seems to work for me.”
On the Course, 12 pm
Allen’s pit setup is usually weather dependent. “At local, dry races, I usually just set my ‘B’ bike in the pit and ride my race, hoping that nothing goes wrong,” Allen explains. “Fortunately, for the national races that Feedback Sports sponsors, we have a pretty sweet setup. Sammy Rutherford, our Eastern sales manager, is our ‘pit boss.’ He has worked dozens of races for me, including SS CX Nationals in Boulder. He has literally saved my race several times, power-washing my bike every half lap in some cases. Having this kind of support is vital to success in true muddy 'cross conditions.”
Once settled in, it’s time to limber up. “Gotta do pushups before every race,” Allen says. “I try to get a few laps on the course to warm up and spin around the venue a bit. If possible I avoid sitting on the trainer. At the line, I am usually relaxed and like to joke around.”
Game Time, 1 pm
When the race starts, Allen says, “Rubbin’ is racin! I always start fast, sometimes too fast. It depends on the course, but I usually pick a particular section during my warm-up lap where I feel I have an advantage. I will try to attack on that section if possible.”
Allen stays extremely focused on conservation during his race. “I constantly look for parts of the course where I can relax and save energy. I will take extra risks on descents and going into corners if it means I can carry momentum into the next section.”
He also tries to ride the entire course, bunny hopping barriers when possible and exerting extra effort on steep run-up sections if it means not getting off the bike. “Running is not my strong suit,” he says. “Riding is more fun!” By the end of any race, he’s “pretty shattered,” admitting that there’s “not a lot of strategy left for roadie tactics—just survival mode to the finish line.”
After the Dust—or Mud—Settles, 2 pm (ish)
After the race, Allen doesn’t spend too much time analyzing what worked or what didn’t. “My post-race ritual is finding the nearest/coldest beer,” he says. “I'm a pretty positive guy, so I don't dwell on the mistakes. There's always room for improvement and it's easy to be hard on yourself. As long as I finish the race, I am happy. I have quit one race and I still regret it—worst feeling ever.”
The One To Watch
Allen is raring to go for 2014, although putting together a race calendar is going to be a little trickier this year as he’s a new father. “Everyone keeps saying that I'm going to get slower now that we have a kid, but I disagree,” Allen says. This season he’s looking forward to throwing a leg over the new Foundry Harrow B1 and racing several local and national cyclocross races. “I want to hit some of the bigger UCI races like Cross Vegas, the Providence CX Festival, the Boulder Cup, and Jingle Cross, to name a few. My first race will be a local Colorado season-opener to clear out the cobwebs. Vegas is the first big race!”
Allen has some choosing to do this year, but in his trademark style, he just sees this as more opportunity for fun. “Now that I am the reigning SS CX National Champion (that still sounds weird), and Foundry made me a custom single speed National Champion Harrow (still cannot believe it!), I will be hitting lots of singlespeed races, too,” he says.“Since I've only raced singlespeed CX twice, I'm looking forward to mixing it up more this year. I have a deep history of riding singlespeed MTB and enjoy the silly atmosphere of those events.”
Sometimes it's more about the party than the race, he admits. “What race?” Allen jokes. “‘One gear, more beer!’ I enjoy the simplicity of one gear, and it definitely makes a lot of sense for cyclocross. I will have a tough time deciding what races to do singlespeed and which ones to race-geared. Either way, work hard, love life, ride a Foundry!”